Every winter, at the time of the first snow, Finnish newspapers run headlines that can roughly be translated as thus: “Winter surprised the Finns!” This concerns the humorous yet life-threatening situation as people act aghast when they hear about the dozen or so pile-ups that are always bound to happen – all of which could’ve been avoided if it weren’t for the ignorant drivers who didn’t bother to take the inevitable into account.
The same seems to be happening right now here at the heart of Scotland. Universities can now be described as Covid hotspots, and the Herald reports that ‘around 1200 students in Scotland are in isolation after breakouts’ in five Scottish universities, with the University of Edinburgh being on its way to that list, as eighteen students are self-isolating in Pollocks Halls.
In the analogy given above, the drivers are the educators and civil servants who are supposed to know better. And, to be frank, it’s quite sickening how people left and right have congregated on putting the blame on the passengers, the students, for the sad and frightening reality that we’re in.
And it’s not like they weren’t given a fair warning: it’s a well-known fact that the beginning of an academic year always coincides with the flu season; when combined with the dismal truth that students weren’t even tested before arriving to their respective accommodations, it’s no wonder that things are the way they are. More than that, on August 31st the University and College Union general secretary Jo Grady explicitly said how ‘moving a million-plus students around the country is a recipe for disaster’– a statement that seems like a no-brainer, and one the supposed adults in charge ought to have known without being told.
That being said, what needs to be done – what measures need to be taken to make things the way they were just a few months back? It’s tempting, and human, to think of ways how this could all have been avoided, but that rarely get us anywhere. It’s good to point the mistakes out, for only then can those mistakes be amended, but beyond that it only harms the public discourse and the citizens’s trust on one another. Here are two messages that might serve as a starting point: one for the drivers, and one for the passengers.
Firstly, the Scottish Government needs to do its utmost to secure more testing kits for hospitals; if people can’t be screened, it creates a false sense of security among the general population as the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality kicks in. What the governing bodies, also, need to remember is that their policies need to be based on actual legislation, which—considering the restrictions put on students, how a single cohort of citizens has been singled out for disciplinary action—feels like something that needn’t be repeated more than once. And if there are restrictions, the Government needs to find new ways for students to socialise and feel like they belong. Everyone needs someone to talk to, someone whom to wish ‘good morning’ as well as ‘good night’ – and no one should be allowed to be left alone, whatever the reason.
Then there are the students, all of whom carry a heavy burden within. For many, moving to a student accommodation is the first time living outside home; and many feel the need to constantly socialise, attend parties, and do things they never dreamt of doing. And that’s understandable: you are still trying to find their place in the world and create those social circles that much older people already have. But. The journey isn’t about to come to an abrupt end. It will go on and on and on until the day graduation comes knocking; and that’s the reason for coming to a university and studying for a degree in the first place: for the better future that lies ahead.
Let’s not toss that future to the bin for the fear of missing out.
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons